Structure of a DNA polymerase alpha-primase domain that docks on the SV40 helicase and activates the viral primosome.

Abstract:

DNA polymerase alpha-primase (pol-prim) plays a central role in DNA replication in higher eukaryotes, initiating synthesis on both leading and lagging strand single-stranded DNA templates. Pol-prim consists of a primase heterodimer that synthesizes RNA primers, a DNA polymerase that extends them, and a fourth subunit, p68 (also termed B-subunit), that is thought to regulate the complex. Although significant knowledge about single-subunit primases of prokaryotes has accumulated, the functions and regulation of pol-prim remain poorly understood. In the SV40 replication model, the p68 subunit is required for primosome activity and binds directly to the hexameric viral helicase T antigen, suggesting a functional link between T antigen-p68 interaction and primosome activity. To explore this link, we first mapped the interacting regions of the two proteins and discovered a previously unrecognized N-terminal globular domain of p68 (p68N) that physically interacts with the T antigen helicase domain. NMR spectroscopy was used to determine the solution structure of p68N and map its interface with the T antigen helicase domain. Structure-guided mutagenesis of p68 residues in the interface diminished T antigen-p68 interaction, confirming the interaction site. SV40 primosome activity of corresponding pol-prim mutants decreased in proportion to the reduction in p68N-T antigen affinity, confirming that p68-T antigen interaction is vital for primosome function. A model is presented for how this interaction regulates SV40 primosome activity, and the implications of our findings are discussed in regard to the molecular mechanisms of eukaryotic DNA replication initiation.

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